Chuck D., Elton John, Chris Cornell, Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen. What do these huge figures in music have to do with each other you ask? Well, they are all a part of Colin Hanks’ (Tom’s son, who has starred in films like That Thing You Do! and Orange County) documentary on the famous Tower Records.
Tower Records was a music store that began in 1960 by Russell Solomon and at its height had two hundred stores in thirty countries. Its beginnings were a little more on the modest side in that it began as a small place within a drugstore in which you could purchase records. It grew in leaps and bounds and soon became “the” place people went to buy music. Tower Records by the Nineties was a major player in the music industry.
In 1999 Tower Records took in a billion dollars though by 2006 they were filing for bankruptcy. How in the short span of seven years did that happen? Was it the changes in the music industry? The Internet?
From the very beginning in 1960 until the bitter end is what All Things Must Pass covers. Russell Solomon bought the business from his dad, who sold 45s in a corner of his small Sacramento drugstore for a profit of seven cents per 45, and between the years of 1960 and 2000 the business kept growing. Tower Records during that period adjusted to changes in the music industry (albums to CDs) and even delivery methods. During the successful period Tower Records became much more than a store vaulting into a cultural barometer. Through interviews, including those with the still colourful Solomon, we learn that the reason for the downfall of the business was not as simple as saying Napster killed it.
For those of us that remember a time before iTunes or streaming music, this documentary covers a big nostalgic part of the music industry. We remember having to go to a store to buy music as that was the only way to get your hands on the latest Elton John album or single.
Hanks, who took seven years to make the film, brings us behind the scenes of the story of Tower Records and its fall from grace. Alternating between narrative and interviews to tell the story of this major player. Interviews happen with musicians and former stock boys. Cool bit with Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters who worked at one. People who were there from the beginning until the end. They make it seem like a place you would want to work at. Very cool vibe.
Even the visuals of the documentary are great with some stock footage of the supermarket of music that was Tower Records with its aisles and aisles of records and CDs.